Why Redeeming Our Thoughts Matters

Broken sexuality has been before our eyes continuously in the form of hashtags and headlines. It’s been a steady stream of repeated revelations of sex abuse scandals. For many, their deeds of darkness have finally been brought into the light (Eph. 5:11), and there has been appropriate public outcry over many of these revelations.

How do these dark deeds become actions in the first place, though? The answer is complex. One aspect that might be passed over because it’s often viewed as normal in our culture, is pornography. We’re a culture steeped in pornographic images, even if it’s soft porn found in mainstream films, TV shows, and books. Though there is not always a direct correlation between pornography and sexual abuse, there is a possible connection between the two that should be taken more seriously.

Read the Rest at ERLC >> 

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Goodbye Christopher Robin Beckons Us Back to the Hundred Acre Wood

Peace in wartime, happiness in sadness, fame in obscurity, and stillness amidst the busyness. These are all longings we experience in life on earth. And all are present in the film Goodbye Christopher Robin. The movie is about author and playwright A. A. Milne and the creation of Winnie the Pooh, centering around a boy who loved his toys and the woods. A creative telling of Milne’s life and his relationship with his son, the film shows the impact of one bear on a boy and the whole world. Goodbye Christopher Robin opens with Milne as an adult in post–World War I London. He suffers from war trauma, which is triggered by loud pops and bangs. He’s returned from battle but it stays with him; he becomes disenfranchised with play-writing in the city and flees to the country to write a book against war. Once there, he hits writer’s block and must find inspiration. He finds it in an unlikely place: the imagination of a child and the wonder of nature. These became his new weapons to fight off the existence of war. As the nanny, Olive, says in the opening of the film:

Once upon a time there was a great war that brought so much sadness to so many people, hardly anyone could remember what happiness was like. But something happened that changed all that. It helped us to believe in the good things, the fun things, and a world full of imagination. And then, just like a tap you turned on, happiness came pouring out.

Winnie the Pooh happened. And it became a global sensation. Milne’s son, whom he and his wife called Billy Moon, became known for his birth name, Christopher Robin. The real boy was popularized as an illustrated book character. His toys became Pooh and friends, and his beloved woods were renamed the Hundred Acre Wood. Suddenly, everyone wanted to know about the boy and his imaginary world. He was expected to pose for magazines, attend social events for book promotion, and have tea with important people. Everyone was happy again… but not the real Christopher Robin.

Read the rest at Christ and Pop Culture >>

Sorrow and Joy at Christmas Time

Many Christmas songs are solely exalting, rejoicing, and celebrating – full of holly and jolly, fa la la la la’s, and jingle bells. But this Latin hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, doesn’t give us a one-sided view of life; it holds a beautiful tension between sorrowing and rejoicing. The song reminds us that we are in the already, but not yet of God’s redemptive plan. Our Savior has come, but he is coming again, so we wait and long. He has paid the penalty for our sin, but the effects of sin are still active in our hearts and in our world.

The hymn itself is mournful and dark sounding, because of its lower, richer tones. The beat is slow and methodical. The lyrics open with the people of Israel waiting in “lonely exile”. Scripture is clear about their exile in Egypt and then in Babylon, but their physical exile was, and still is, a picture of their spiritual exile. God allowed them to be taken captive, because he was punishing them. The Israelites needed to repent, but they never seemed to learn their lesson. They were like sheep without a Shepherd; wandering and lost. Their physical exile was meant to point them to a deeper need in their hearts; a need to be ransomed from their dark inner captivity.

Today, we are not like the Israelites, in the sense that our Emmanuel (meaning “God with us”) has already come. We already have the hope that the Israelites longed to see. The Son of God has appeared to us. He was with us in bodily form on this earth and crushed his body on a tree to redeem our whole being. Though he cried out, “It is finished!” it’s clearly evident that things still aren’t perfect. So we are sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. Our Emmanuel has come and fully secured our eternal salvation. But we still wait for our final deliverance: for everything to be made right, for our sin and tears to be gone, for the banishment of suffering and pain, for our bodies to be resurrected, for the earth to be made new.

We can still cry out with the Israelites in our own earthly exile, because we still wait for the day when we’ll see him face to face and be with him forever. We wait for “death’s dark shadow to be put to flight” completely and finally. We yearn for the day when “our sad divisions cease” and the King of Peace will complete his full plan of redemption. We have reason to lift up our eyes and rejoice, because he will come. He did it once, and he’ll do it again.

This translation of an anonymous Latin hymn doubles as a prayer for the first and second coming of Christ. It takes us into the mind of old Israel, longing for the first coming of the Messiah. And it goes beyond that longing by voicing the yearning of the church of Christ for the Messiah, Jesus Christ, to consummate the history of redemption. – John Piper

This is one of the short devotional meditations found in the free e-book Emmanuel: Readings for the Advent Season

Body Image and Baby Jesus

Before getting pregnant with my third child I worried about my body image. Will I be able to lose the baby weight a third time? Will there be more sagging? More stretching and scars? My postpartum body just doesn’t measure up to images on social media or the magazine aisle at checkout.

The cultural and social pressure out there is tough on our bodies, especially for women. Fat is stigmatized, muscle should be toned, and beach body ready by summertime. If the view of our bodies is reduced to only a scale number and a certain “fit look” then we are missing out on God’s design for our bodies.

They are a temple of the Holy Spirit, which he bought at a great cost (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). Since our bodies are good and not our own, we are called to cherish and care for them and use them in service and sacrifice (Romans 12:1).

Although tempted to believe otherwise when I look in the mirror, my pregnant body is good and my postpartum body is good. Scars and sagging skin are the marks I bear on my body in service of others, like when Jesus showed the disciples the nail scars in his hands. It was good for him to sacrifice his body for me, and it’s good for me to sacrifice my body for another.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

Emmanuel: Readings for the Advent Season

For the last month and a half or so I’ve been working on creating content for this e-book with the help of Katie Tumino. (Ellie Eugenia worked on the design and layout.) Inside are short devotional meditations inspired by Christmas hymns. I wrote two myself, as well as Katie and Ellie, but we also had a few other contributors writing their own pieces.

We’re offering it for free! 

Get it here.

emmanuelmockuplightaut

The Halloween We Can’t Escape: biblical truth found in a dark holiday

Halloween is spooky. It’s ghouls and goblins, ghosts and skeletons, witches and black cats. Many view it as just a fun time to dress up and get candy, and many view it as an offensive holiday. But whatever our personal convictions are about Halloween, or how we chose to present it to our children, Halloween can be a reminder of certain biblical truths.

Halloween reminds us that life is dark, evil exists, and death is real. Most of us prefer the joy of the Christmas season, the gratefulness of Thanksgiving, or the victory of Easter. We quickly bypass, ignore, or deny the realities that Halloween presents to us. Good Friday comes before Easter though, and Good Friday proves that the spiritual realities of Halloween exist. Why else did we need a savior to face the dark evil for us?

Read the rest at Morning by Morning >>

The Deep Desire Beneath Lana Del Rey’s Shallow Lust for Life

On her latest album, Lust for Life, Lana Del Rey stays true to her musical style. She maintains her haunting vocals, which are deep and rich and can take off with soaring clarity. The light, slow beats that accompany her voice are in the background, while her vocals take up the focus. Her sound is pretty and gritty all at the same time. At The Atlantic, Spencer Kornhaber describes Del Rey’s new release as a return to her first one: “Lust for Life is really Born to Die’s sequel: a rather fabulous return to catchiness, camp, and faint hip-hop influences.”

The album screams nostalgia, from the opening song, “Love”—which resembles a 1950’s rock anthem—to “Beautiful People Beautiful Problems,” a duet with Stevie Nicks, to the retro-looking album cover. Her lyrics, meanwhile, carry timeless pop themes: summer love affairs, love lost, bad relationships, sex, and romance.

Though pop lyrics about relationships are “oh so cliche,” they also serve as a signpost for our cultural obsession with love.

Read the rest at Think Christian >>

If You Want to Live Truly, Learn to Die Daily

All year round the thorn of the gorse bush has been hardening and sharpening. Even in spring, the thorn does not soften or fall off. But at last, about halfway up, two brown furry balls emerge. They are small at first, but then they fully break out of last year’s thorn to flower into a ray of sunshine. The hardness gives way to a delicate beauty. The death of the thorn splits open to produce a blossoming resurrection of life. Death and resurrection.

We find the same pattern in our own lives.

I noticed this death-and-resurrection pattern when I became a mother. I had a traumatic birth experience, my full-term baby had to be admitted to the NICU, and he wouldn’t nurse. I battled through the difficult nursing experience I had with him for two weeks, was just about to give up, and then it worked out. When we got home from the hospital he would cry all night, and not go back to sleep, even when he was just fed. I would usually cry with him.

When evening time would come, feelings of dread would make my stomach sick because I knew what night would bring. On top of this, my body was trying to adjust to this new transition. My hormones launched me into depression. I would cry a lot for no reason, and I felt a constant loneliness and then guilt on top of it all for feeling like this when I had a new baby.

This was supposed to be a joyful time. But I felt like I was dying.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

The Magic of Fairy Tales: How children’s stories changed whole generations by first changing magnificent writers

In J. M. Barrie’s classic fairy story, Peter Pan explains to Wendy that beautiful, delicate creatures are born from the joy of a child.

When the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies.

Fairy tales like this are simple, but complex at the same time. They communicate deep truths and morals and they can instill this joy, delight, and wonder while still cutting into the human soul. Maybe we need to return to those important parts of our childhood: joy, delight, and wonder in the simple things. Maybe fairy tales still matter.

Read the rest in the latest issue of Fathom Mag to find out why fairy tales still matter. 

Project Runway and Clothing as Story

Clothes have always told stories. They indicate social class, signify accomplishment, and mark points in history. People can be defined by the clothes they wear: goth, hippie, punk, hipster. What we wear tells a little bit about who we are, whether we’re creative, edgy, girly, simple, or minimalist. Clothes have also been key in the narratives of Scripture—think of Joseph and his colorful coat.

Fashion designers are also trying to tell a story through their clothes—either a story of innovation, a breaking off of tradition, or of trying to communicate who they are through their designs. This is especially true on Lifetime’s Project Runway, which unveils its 16th season on Thursday. Hosted by supermodel Heidi Klum and fashion consultant Tim Gunn, the show brings in fashion designers to compete for a chance to show a collection at New York Fashion Week. But the designers must make it through a series of intense design challenges first.

Designers are often pulled outside of their comfort zone by making clothes from unconventional items, such as creating an avant-garde look that can withstand the rain or reworking fabric from a tacky men’s suit. They’ve had to draw inspiration from different motifs for these challenges: butterflies, bowties, and even an American Girl doll. On top of this, all of the challenges need to be completed under a time constraint. No matter the challenge, the model should walk down the runway still expressing the designer’s unique vision. The judges should be able to look at the clothes and know which designer they belong to.

This reminds me of the way Scripture uses clothes to tell stories…

Read the rest at Think Christian >>

Theories of Life, Death, and Afterlife in The Discovery

Where do we go when we die?” has been a question haunting humanity since our earliest days. This unknown was explored in ancient myths, folklore, and drawings on walls. Life and death was even dictated by specific beliefs about the afterlife. Ancient Egyptians, for example, preserved their bodies and organs when they died. They buried themselves with material objects, pets, and loved ones, in faith it would all come along with them when they passed through death. Some religions believe in reincarnation: after death, people are reborn into another state (human or not), and the quality of their previous life determines the quality of their next one.

What most religions have in common is the belief that this life determines the next; the afterlife is the result of choices made in this life. But not so in the Netflix original film The Discovery. The idea of afterlife presented here is a second chance at this life. It’s a way to fix your deepest regrets and undo all the wrong and the tragedy you’ve endured. The Discovery begins with Thomas, a leading scientist who has proven the existence of an afterlife. He can’t say what it is exactly, but the proof gives a bent sort of hope to the world. It is fodder enough for millions of suicides by those who are looking for a way of escape from this life. No longer is death viewed as meaningless—now it’s life that has some explaining to do. Why bother to face the problems of this world when there is another one? As one videoman says to Thomas before he shoots himself in the head, “Thank you, Doctor, for my fresh start.”

Read the rest at Christ and Pop Culture >>

“What Do You Do?” The Greater Purpose of Our Work

I love getting things done. I feel accomplished checking off boxes on my to-do list. I’m satisfied with finishing even small tasks, like washing a few dishes in the sink. There’s something gratifying about laying my head on my pillow, knowing it was a productive day.

Our ideas of a productive day might be different, but it’s undeniable that we, as a culture, love seeing results for our work. We like the politician who promises us they’ll get things done for us; projects and goals are only deemed successful if we achieve the end result; and we go to college so we can get a good paying job that will help us climb the corporate ladder. Nothing is wrong with these scenarios, but they’re all forms of our culture’s tendency to place a greater importance on “doing.”

“So, what do you do?”

When you meet someone for the first time, you might ask them, “So, what do you do?” We tend to identify someone by the things they do. We classify and place value on different occupations, salaries and outward talents and skills. Even our college education system has become more concerned with career goals than about the idea of what an educated person is.

Much of this mentality has to do with the American-grown philosophy of pragmatism. There is a large breadth to this philosophy, but I’m using it in the sense of practicality. To be pragmatic means that the practicality of ideas, policies and proposals is the only criteria of merit and is what makes a principle usable. I’m a practical person, and I know there’s nothing wrong with that, but pragmatism can’t be the only measurement of worth and value that we use.

Read the rest at ERLC >>

The Art of Social Commentary

Why Charles Dickens should be our social commentary muse.

“Where Dickens wielded a pen, today we wield a smartphone.”


“Please, sir, I want some more.” These are the famous words of the hungry orphan, Oliver Twist. The novel, so named after the main character, is one of Dickens most popular, and if you don’t know anything about the novel, you have probably still heard those words.

But beyond simply writing and creating a great story around Oliver Twist, Dickens created him for a purpose beyond the page of a book. Twist became a form of social commentary.

Read the rest at Fathom Mag >>

 

Aging With Grace: How Death Will Restore Youth

Peter Pan is one of my favorite stories. Neverland is a place throbbing with human longing—a magical paradise where a boy with eternal youth lives at its center. Though we know the story isn’t real, that doesn’t stop our hearts from yearning for the eternal youth and beauty it represents. We strive to attain it.

Our cultural obsession with youth and beauty presents itself through the anti-aging industry. We hate to see beauty fade away. We color the silver hairs that slowly overtake our youthful roots. We lather on anti-aging creams that promise to make wrinkles fade. We surgically modify our bodies to make them seem young again.

Science is also on this anti-aging quest.

According to The Guardian’s science correspondent, Hannah Devlin, a new form of gene therapy may reverse the aging process. Devlin says that this adds to the mounting evidence already in existence, which says that wear and tear is not what leads to physical decay, but an internal genetic clock that causes our bodies to enter a state of decline.

“The scientists are not claiming that ageing can be eliminated, but say that in the foreseeable future treatments designed to slow the ticking of this internal clock could increase life expectancy,” says Devlin.

According to this research, Peter Pan might be a real story someday. At least, in some sense.

Read the rest at Gospel Taboo >>